AUGUSTA, Maine — While the Legislature winnows its list of bills left to deal with this year, talks on the budget are totally stalled.
Senate Minority Leader Troy Jackson, D-Allagash, said the same conflicts exist now as have hamstrung budget negotiations during the past few weeks, and that the situation might have become worse since he and other legislative leaders met Friday with Gov. Paul LePage.
Jackson said Friday’s meeting with LePage was constructive in nature but didn’t close the gap that separates Democrats and Senate Republicans from LePage and House Republicans. LePage was more blunt Tuesday on WVOM, saying the meeting was “not very good.”
But the Republican governor said that he believes pressure to eliminate the education surcharge passed by voters in 2016 is mounting to the point that the path away from a government shutdown is becoming clearer.
“I’m willing to sit down and talk together, but give us something so that in the next biennium we’re not facing the same problem,” said LePage. “With all the commotion on the 3 percent rising up and people starting to turn against it pretty hard, I don’t think we’ll shut government down.”
That belies the fact that there are still many sticking points between most of the Legislature and the governor. LePage continued his insistence that any new education funding come with reforms such as a statewide teacher contract and school administration consolidation.
Jackson also said LePage has taken issue with some of the funding sources that have been proposed by Senate Republicans to invest more than $100 million in public schools in lieu of the 3 percent surtax created last year by voter referendum.
Despite his hopeful tack, LePage said he is preparing for the possibility of a shutdown. That will begin this morning in a meeting with his Cabinet. If a shutdown occurs, he’ll have wide latitude to decide which services are essential and which aren’t.
“We’re going to start preparing,” he said. “I’m going to ask the commissioners what are the most vital services to provide in each agency.”
This item was originally published in Daily Brief, a free political newsletter distributed Monday through Friday by the Bangor Daily News to inform dialogue about Maine politics and government. To read more of today’s Daily Brief, click here. To have the Daily Brief delivered daily to your inbox, click here.